Throwback Thursday – Autobiography Part 3

Here is the third and final section of my autobiography (written at 16). See part 1 for the project scope.


I started middle school in September 1991, scared out of my mind. It wasn’t half as bad as I imagined. Sixth grade was interesting. I did a science project with two tiny turtles and participated in the “International night” at school. I was also in the chorus. Around that time, Mom was surprised to find out she was pregnant. I did not understand how it could be a surprise, because at that time I thought that people only had sex when they wanted to make a baby. My brother Nick was born in May the following year. I was excited to have another brother. That summer we went to bible school and had a blast. In August I got my first period. The moment I had been waiting for! I was a woman! I called Joanna and Chrissy to tell the good news. They were both jealous because I had gotten it first.

Seventh grade was a good year. I don’t really remember anything specific that happened, other than I had a huge crush on my Social Studies teacher. He was young, tall, blonde haired and blue-eyed. I was so nervous around him. He was a stud if I ever saw one.*

Eighth grade was a great year. Unfortunately we moved to New Jersey in April. I was so mad. I could not stand the idea of moving to New Jersey!** I was mad because I would have to finish eighth grade n a new school. I was even more mad because we had to live in a big housing development. Yuck! It would be tough I knew. So in May I started at Chestnut Ridge Middle School and hated it. All the kids in my class were nice but the school was overcrowded with obnoxious adolescents. I was glad I only had to be there for two months because if I had to stay longer I probably would have gone berserk. That summer we went to bible school and I roomed with my friend Leah. We had a blast that week. I had a huge crush on a guy named Nathan but to my disappointment he started going out with another girl. The rest of the summer we spent fixing up the new house and going to the shore.

In September 1994 I started high school. I was absolutely terrified on the first day. It was such a big school (with 1200 kids) that there were two buildings. One for ninth and tenth and the other for eleventh and twelfth. I didn’t know anyone in any of my classes and I really didn’t care. Throughout my freshman year I was a total loner. I didn’t have a single friend until the very end of the year when a new girl moved in and I introduced myself to her, knowing how she must have felt. Her name was Wendy and we became pretty good friends but she lived too far away to hang out with after school.

The summer of ’95 was a great one. We went to bible school as usual and I hung out with all my friends there. After we came home from that, I wanted to go to another bible school but Mom said they were probably all filled up. Shortly after that conversation, Gram called to say that she would be going to bible school up in Massachusetts with her friend Jean and that my friend Jay would be going with them. So I persuaded Mom to call and see if there was room for me. It all worked out, and that Saturday I was in a car going up to Massachusetts. I am so glad I went to that bible school because I met so many new people. I met a girl named Debby and we hit off really well, like we’d been friends all our lives. She lived in Connecticut so I didn’t see her much but we wrote and talked on the phone a lot. In August we came up to Vermont to ‘house-sit’ for a family while they went to England for three weeks. We fell in love with the area and dreamed about it when we went back to New Jersey.

10th grade was an interesting year. Wendy and I had two classes together and we goofed off whenever we were together. She moved in December so that was the end of that. I had another bone graft in December 1995. The doctor moved my upper jaw forward and down and wired my mouth shut so it could heal. So I spent the month of January at home with my mouth wired shut. I lost about 10 pounds because I could only eat liquids through a straw. My teachers came to the house to drop off work and tutor me. I enjoyed being home but I did not enjoy having my teachers come to my house.

We kept visiting our friends (who we called Uncle Trev and Aunt Jenny) in Vermont that year, in October, December, March, April and May. When Mom and I came up in March, we had a long discussion with them about possibly moving to Vermont. They wanted to build an addition on their house and they suggested that we come live with them while we looked for a house in the area. Mom and I talked about it the whole way home. We were so excited! We kept saying that it was probably too good to be true and not to get our hopes up, but we couldn’t help being excited. In May, we came up as a family and Dad, Uncle Trev and Dave (Trev & Jenny’s daughter’s boyfriend) and I got started on the addition. I remember Dave and I digging for the foundation and talking about what it would be like if we lived there. We celebrated Nick’s 4th birthday at the Hubbardton waterhole and then that night we drove back to New Jersey.

In June 1996, my grandmother Nana got married. We went up to Canada for the wedding. It was kind of strange to see my own grandmother get married, but it was nice. The next day was my 16th birthday and I spent it lying down with a stomach virus in the back seat of our van as we drove home (11 hours!). That was definitely the worst birthday of my life. I didn’t even get cake (not that I wanted to eat any at that time anyway.)

The first week in July we went to bible school and I roomed with Debby. We had a great time and met lots of new people. The Wednesday after bible school, Mom and I went to Saint Louis for an NFED conference. NFED stands for National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias, which is the syndrome I was born with. As soon as we got home from the conference, I was off to the bible school in Massachusetts. Debby and I had a great time. She fell in love with a guy from Texas and I flirted with any guy who was around. It was fun!

In August the whole family moved up to Vermont, except Dad, who stayed in New Jersey until he could find work here. Kris and John started school at Castleton Elementary and I started taking two college-level art classes at Castleton College with Uncle Trev, who is a professor there. I took a watercolor class and a studio arts class and liked them both. I didn’t get credit for them but it was a good experience. In the beginning of September Kris and I went to a CYC (our church youth group) weekend in Northern VT. I started my junior year at Fair Haven Union High School in September. I like Fair Haven better than my school in NJ because it is so much smaller and friendlier. On the first day of school I met a few people (I then went on to list their names, but I won’t do that here.) I liked all my classes, especially art. My art teacher realized I was serious about art, so he invited me to come with some of the seniors and juniors on a trip to the Hartford Art School in Connecticut for a portfolio review. That was really exciting for me because I was able to hear professional criticism and advice about my work. I also got to talk to representatives from art colleges across the country.

That pretty much brings us up to date. Right now my family is still living with Uncle Trev and Aunt Jenny in Bomoseen and Dad comes up every Friday night. I love living in this area because it is such a beautiful place and is not cram-packed with people like New Jersey was. Debby and I are still best friends, I still talk to Becky and Ben and Joanna’s brother Zach, but I haven’t heard from Joanna in about a year. Since we studied dreams in Psychology, I have been trying to write down my dreams as soon as I wake up. I have always been very interested in dreams and now that I’ve been writing them down I am seeing patterns. I often dream about dad – probably because I am anxious for him to find work here so he can live with us. I also dream a lot about things happening to me, like all my teeth falling out or forgetting to put my pants on before I come to school. I have also discovered that I dream every night. I used to think I only dreamed once in a while, but now I see I dream at least once a night if not more.

My plans for the future are always changing, because I want to do so many things. This summer (1997), I plan to go to the Governor’s Institute for the Arts for two weeks and then go to the Massachusetts bible school after that. The rest of the summer I plan to work in the garden and run around barefoot in the grass and jump in the lake and just have fun. Hopefully some of my friends from bible school will come visit.

I plan to go to Castleton College or UVM in 1998 and major in any one or combination of the following: Liberal Arts, Agriculture, Fine Arts, English, Environmental Science or Education. (As I name the entire school). After I graduate from college I’m going to get started with a career and then get married. I want to have a couple of children and enjoy seeing them grow up. I plan to live to see my great-great grandchildren and be healthy, alert, and active until my last day.


Editor’s notes:

Oh dear. How optimistic I was for my future! it is kind of amusing to me to go back and read how I saw life as a 16-year-old. In some ways I was so naive it’s embarrassing. I really did have a sheltered life, and of course I am glad for that, but it did mean that I had some serious growing up to do once I got out in the real world. If I could go back in time and talk to the girl I was when I wrote this autobiography, I would tell her this: First of all, make the effort to make real friends at school, because you can never have too many friends. Second, take your academics more seriously. Apply to UVM and actually go there, instead of just defaulting to Castleton. Don’t be so afraid of what people think of you. Trust yourself.

*Many years later I saw my old social studies teacher appeared on Jeopardy! Episode #25.101 He was still pretty cute!

**My apologies to anyone in New Jersey, apparently it was the target of all of my teen angst.

Throwback Thursday – Bonus Edition!

Hi there! So I was going through some of my journals looking for future Throwback Thursday posts (because it’s easier than creating new content) and I came across this one from just two years ago. I hope it gives you a chuckle.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Well, today confirmed what I’d always suspected was true: a GYN exam performed by a male doctor is more awkward than one by a female doctor. Perhaps it was the moment when, as I lay with breast exposed, he began rubbing his hands together vigorously like he was about to dive into a good meal. I realize he was merely trying to ensure that he wouldn’t give me a chill with cold hands, but the movement was so awkward that I almost burst out laughing right then and there.

Also, when approaching my vag, he would run the back of his hand down my inner thigh. I guess it was to alert me to his presence, but it was SO WEIRD. I mean it was vaguely stimulating! Maybe that was the idea – if the vag is happy, it won’t mind accepting a speculum? Ew!

The rest of the exam was fine, I suppose. I tried not to feel awkward, but he was younger than I had expected. At least he wasn’t my age, because that would have made it 1,000 times worse.

– – – – –

Editor’s note: I did not return to that doctor. He was a general practitioner and I thought it would be easy to just throw in a GYN exam with my regular physical, instead of going to two different appointments. But no. I later found a male GYN who was not awkward, and I actually like him better than my previous female GYN because he doesn’t ask me when my boyfriend is going to propose or when I plan to have children. (Judgy much?)

Throwback Thursday – Autobiography Part 2

Last week I began typing up the autobiography I wrote for my 11th grade developmental psychology class. If you’d like to start at the beginning, check that post out first. This is part 2 of 3.


In first grade I had an awesome teacher named Mrs. Bush. She was the best teacher I’ve ever had. As soon as we could read and write, she had us writing our own stories and reading things not only to learn, but to have fun. She taught us words like amphibian, camouflage, reptile, and azure. she began each day with a letter on the board for us to copy into our notebooks and fill out the blanks. We liked her so much, and she liked us so much, that she decided to teach all of us again in second grade. In second grade she taught us sign language, we built a mouse house, learned about the Amish, barn owls and England. We even put on a puppet show for our parents on Open House night. I think those two years were the best of all my years in school. That year the school district redrew the district lines and as it turned out, my house was closer to another elementary school, so the next year I had to transfer to Longstreth Elementary. Third grade was a big adjustment. I had a hard time making new friends, but I survived.

In November 1988, my brother John was born. I had my first kiss around that time too. It was at a bible class which was being hosted at another family’s house. My friend Tim and I were playing together in his room while everyone else was downstairs. I was just innocently playing and talking to him when he grabbed me and kissed me right on the lips. I was so happy! I remember we used to hold hands together and I truly believed we’d be together forever (at the time I was only about 9 years old.)

The summer of 1989, Dad built us a big playhouse in the backyard. It had two ‘houses’, one for me and one for Kris. My house was on top and it had a wobbly bridge across to another platform with a sliding board. Kris’s house was under the slide platform and under my house was another open platform to climb on. That summer we played constantly, pretending to be Swiss Family Robinson in the playhouse, mermaids in the swimming pool and Indians in the woods.

In August of 1989, I had surgery on my ear to remove a benign tumor. It was only supposed to be an outpatient procedure but when I woke up, I was told that the doctor had found a bigger tumor than expected. It had intertwined itself around everything in my ear and the doctor decided to remove everything in my ear. Since then I have been deaf in that ear. At the time, I wasn’t too upset, probably because I was still groggy from the anesthesia. My parents were really upset though. I was supposed to have been well enough to go back to school with everyone else, but when the doctor took off my bandages he discovered that the incision behind my ear had become infected and hadn’t healed. I remember my mom almost fainted and I started crying because blood was running down my neck and the doctor was saying “This isn’t supposed to be happening!” So, in order for it to heal, the wound had to be kept open and an antibacterial ointment used on it every day. Dad was the only one who could change my bandage because mom couldn’t bear looking into it. I hated to have the ointment put on because it was very uncomfortable. About a week or so later, I was back in the operating room to have my ear sewed up again. I was glad when that finally healed. I ended up missing the first week of school because I was still recovering.

I was well enough to go to Disney world in October. I remember that trip well. it was really exciting for all of us because we’d saved the money for a long time to go on that trip. Fourth grade was a lot better than third grade. I had a lot more friends, but I hated most of my classes except art, which was my favorite.

In the summer of 1990, I had to I had to go in the hospital for an intravenous treatment because the tumor was growing in my ear again. We had switched doctors since the ear operation, and my new doctor believed that the IV treatment would be much more successful than another operation. I was glad of that, but 10 days in the hospital, however exciting it may seem gets really boring after the first day. I watched a lot of T.V. and I was homesick and dying to get out of there. I remember talking to Mom on the phone and begging her to come and take me home. She came to visit every day, but I wanted her to stay with me the whole time. I did have a lot of visitors though. Gram came a couple of times and brought magazines and food for me. The rest of that summer was fun though. Chrissy and I played in the woods, building forts and pretending to be Indians and fair maidens and everything else we could possibly imagine.

Fifth grade was a great year. I had great teachers and good friends. We went on a class trip to the Poconos for three days and two nights, we had a Greek Festival and we wrote a book together as a class. In February 1991, I missed about a week of school for surgery on my mouth. I had to have a bone graft to close up the gaps in my gums on either side of my two front teeth. I was so scared of that operation. I was convinced that I was going to die. I think it was because they were going to use bone from my hip to do the graft. I thought I would have a permanent limp, because I didn’t understand that the bone would be taken from the outer part of my hip. As I lay on the operating table slowly breathing in the anesthesia I kept repeating the Lord’s Prayer over and over in my head and as I slowly began losing consciousness I begged God to be with me and keep me alive. I was so afraid. It’s a horrible feeling, as you lose consciousness to know that you are no longer in control the doctors and nurses had total control over me and that freaks me out.

Fifth grade was my last year in the Elementary school. My friend Marie moved to Alabama right after school let out and Chrissy had moved in April, so I really didn’t have many friends close by to spend my summer with, but I enjoyed it anyway. I read a lot, rode my bike everywhere and swam in the pool. I got together with Joanna a couple of times and went to the beach with Gram.

—To be continued—

Editor’s note: When I wrote this, I had a very childlike understanding of what had happened in my ear. I refer to it all as a tumor, but it was more than that. I wrote about this in more detail in my post about my early experience with cholesteatoma.

Throwback Thursday – Autobiography of a 16 Year Old Me

In my junior year of high school I took a developmental psychology class and loved it. One of the projects in the class was to compose an autobiography and pay attention to the stages of development throughout our lives.  So here is what I wrote, with a few edits for brevity and privacy. Even with my edits, this is super long, so I’m going to break it up into 3 posts. Keep in mind that I was sweet (and innocent) 16 when I wrote this!

The cover has seen better days.

The cover has seen better days.

Infancy and Early Childhood

I was born EEC Chick in June 1980 to Mark and Susan in Abington, Pennsylvania. I was a healthy 7 pound, 21 inch baby, but it was a shock that I was born with a cleft lip and palate and cleft hands and feet. My mother didn’t even get to hold me right away because the doctor rushed me off to examine me. I had to have many surgeries those first few months of life to close up my lip and palate so I would be able to eat and look presentable.

I was an only child for the first four years of my life. I remember we lived with my grandmother, who I called Gram. Both Mom and Dad worked so Gram took care of me during the day. I started talking at about a year old. My first words were cookie, eye and flower. I began walking in September 1981. I stood myself up with the help of the television stand and walked towards Mom and Gram as they sat on the sofa watching Lawrence Welk.

Our family went to Sunday School and Meeting (Church) every Sunday, so I had friends there from the very beginning. Becky, who was six months older than me, and Joanna, who was six months younger. We had a lot of fun together. Becky’s older brother Ben would play with us too.

I don’t remember much about my surgeries except for the one I had to fix the big toe on my right foot. It stuck out so far that my mom had to cut a hole in my shoe so it could stick out. I remember Mom, Gram and I got up really early and went to the hospital. When we got there we had to wait for a while and then my doctor came and asked me if I was ready. I said I was and he picked me up and carried me into the operating room. There he put me on a table and put a funny mask on my nose and asked what flavor I would like, strawberry, banana, chocolate, or bubble gum? I asked for banana and soon I was sleepily breathing the banana scented anesthesia. I was really grouchy when I woke up. As soon as I woke up I was taken to the physical therapy room so I could learn to walk on crutches. I was really mad and I screamed and yelled until they let me go back to my room and go back to sleep. All I wanted to do was go home! Once I did get home it wasn’t long before I was walking again despite the cast on my foot.

I just walked down these stairs with two different sized feet... no big deal.

I just walked down these stairs with two different sized feet… no big deal.

When I was three, my mom became pregnant with her second child. I was going to be a big sister! I couldn’t decide whether I wanted a girl or a boy but my mom told me not to worry, God would choose what it would be. So, 6 days after my fourth birthday, my first brother Kris was born. That year I began taking swimming lessons at the YMCA. I couldn’t wait to begin. I loved swimming in our pool at home and I was ready to make new friends. My mom was nervous about how the other kids would react to me, but her fears were quickly overcome when she met my teacher, Suzanne, who had exactly the same things wrong with her as I did! I had a great time there. Swimming was my favorite, but I also loved arts and crafts and gymnastics too.

Around that time, my great grandfather died. I wanted to go to the funeral but Mom wouldn’t let me. I had all these questions like, would he be naked? What would he look like? Was he going to be a skeleton? And of course, why can’t I go? Mom said funerals weren’t for little girls. Oh well, I had fun because my cousin Karen babysat me and I thought she was really neat. She was 16 and I wanted to be just like her. Not long after that, Gram moved out. She was going to go live with my great grandmother, who needed someone to take care of her. I was very sad that she wouldn’t live with us anymore, but I would still see her a lot because she would be less than an hour away, in New Jersey.

One day I was out playing in the yard when I heard a voice. “Hello, little girl!” At first I was scared because we didn’t have any neighbors and I couldn’t imagine where the voice was coming from. Then I realized there was a woman and a little girl about my age standing between the grapevine and the big pine tree that separated our yard from the next. “Hello, this is Christina, your new neighbor!” said the woman, motioning towards the girl, “and I’m her grandmother. Who are you?” She smiled as I walked over shyly. “I’m Heather,” I whispered “Let me go get my dad.” I ran into the house and found Dad in the kitchen washing dishes. He came outside and talked to the woman. I shyly asked the girl to play and we hit off well. Actually, to say we hit off is rather funny considering how much we fought. It seemed that we finished each of our play sessions with a fight and I would swear that I wouldn’t play with her again for a year, but by the time the next day rolled around we had forgotten about the fight and were ready to play again.

In September 1985, I started Kindergarten at McDonald Elementary School. I was very excited, I couldn’t wait to go to real school like a big kid! The first day came and I climbed onto the enormous yellow school bus that would take me to the even bigger red brick school. I thought Mrs. Schulden, my teacher, was kind of scary because she was so strict. Once, we were taking a test and she had set up books on our desks so we couldn’t look at the person next to us. I was confused about one part and I leaned over to see what the girl next to me put on her paper. (Little did I know that Mrs. Schulden was standing behind me.) She pushed my chair in hard and fast so that my ribs hit the edge of the desk. I tried not to cry, not because it hurt, but because I had done something bad and I felt ashamed.

One day just before it was time to go home, Mrs. Schulden asked if any of us had left an umbrella in the coat closed the day before. She held up a blue plastic handled umbrella with a clear plastic top that had little fish on it. Wow, I thought, that is a really neat umbrella! I raised my hand when I saw that no one else was claiming it. “Are you sure it’s yours Heather?” asked Mrs. Schulden. I nodded, and the umbrella was mine.I told my mom that a friend had given it to me at school. A couple of days later, Mrs. Schulden asked who had taken the umbrella because a girl in her afternoon class had lost one. Everyone knew I had taken it but I claimed it was mine.

Riding the bus was always interesting. Chrissy and I sat together and once we got in a big fight and the bus driver told us that if we didn’t knock it off, he’d send us to prison. That quieted us down quite a bit. We also had problems with boys. Once, I got punched in the nose by one and then Chrissy tried to beat him up before the bus driver intervened. One boy in particular, whose name was David, made fun of me to no end. he called me blondie and was always teasing my friends and I, until one day Mom got on the bus (much to my embarrassment) and told him that if he didn’t leave me alone, he’d have to deal with her. I guess that was a pretty scary thought, because he never bothered me after that.

—- To be continued —

Whew! My hand is tired from typing all that out. Obviously I don’t have the original word document from 1997. Hah. For some reason when I type, I just hold my left thumb up in the air all the time, and after a while my hand starts cramping up. Awkward.

Anyway… If you’re curious to know what I edited out of this wordy introduction to my life, it was about 20 “I remember”s and a section where I talked about the senile old lady who lived next door before Chrissy’s family moved in. How odd that I found that to be something relative to my life when I wrote this autobiography.

Also, it’s kind of alarming to realize how much of my early life I have forgotten. I have NO memory of being punched in the nose on the bus, and I definitely had not thought of Mrs. Schulden or the umbrella I stole in many years. (What is with me and umbrellas?)

I hope you enjoyed this throwback within a throwback. Next week I will post the ‘Childhood’ section, where there was lots of learning and playing and a couple more surgeries to boot.

Throwback Thursday – Thanksgiving 1991

Happy Thanksgiving!! I hope all of you reading this are having a lovely day with the people you care about most. Here’s a little flashback to 1991, when we lived in PA and always had a bunch of people over for Thanksgiving dinners. But I didn’t really describe much of that here. IMG_2550

What was I doing while the whole family gathered around? Playing Nintendo, of course!

Thursday November 28, 1991

Today was nice, I helped Mommy make stuffing, coleslaw, carrots. it was fun. Then around four o’clock the Mayocks came, then the Fausts and Uncle Jim, Aunt Boo, Lindsay and Jackie and Drew + Jane + Karen. Also Gram and Aunt Evelyn. Jay and I played Nintendo all night.

I had to include the next day’s entry too because I can’t stop laughing at the ridiculous self portrait I drew.

Friday November 29, 1991

Today was okay we had no school so we played outside today. I had fun. Tonight we watched TGIF. (Perfect Strangers, Full House and Family Matters, anyone? Whatever, I was 11!)

Anyway, check out what I imagined myself looking like “in at least 5 years”


It looks like I have a butt growing out of my chest. Much to my disappointment, I did not have anything resembling cantaloupes in my shirt 5 years later (or ever), but I did succeed in growing my hair very long and getting a nice set of teeth. I was pretty happy about that!

Kristina and me

Late 90’s. Still waiting for my melons to sprout.